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Finances likely leading Bulls to Hamilton

12/10/2011

CHICAGO -- Here's what we've learned in the past few days as far as the Bulls and potential upgrades to the roster go. Money talks, and most free-agent shooting guards have kept walking.

From the beginning, the Bulls knew it would be a tough sell to get a sought-after option to bite the bullet and accept less money than other teams offered. That has indeed proven to be the case.

On Saturday, another player who has been linked to the Bulls for months as a potential singing, decided to take more money and sign elsewhere. That player would be Jason Richardson, who reportedly decided to take a four-year deal worth $25 million dollars from the Orlando Magic, according to multiple outlets. The deal is expected to be finished by Monday.

The most the Bulls could have offered Richardson was the midlevel exception, which would have worked out to around $20 million over four years. The 30-year-old obviously felt as if this was his last chance to cash in on a big payday. What else could the reasoning be? The Magic are on the verge of losing Dwight Howard and the organization is nowhere near ready to win a championship. Obviously, Richardson isn't alone in wanting to cash in. Same goes for veteran swingman Caron Butler who recently agreed to a three-year, $24 million dollar deal with the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers are an exciting team, but they aren't going to win a title this season. The Bulls are without question much closer to winning a ring, but the players didn't want to take a pay cut to be in Chicago.

Let's be clear: I'm not begrudging these players one bit for deciding to go for the money. An athlete only gets a few chances in his or her career to sign big contracts, so more power to these guys for getting the money when they can. The notion that the Bulls were going to land someone because they were willing to take less money to play in Chicago was always overblown. It's the same reason Jamal Crawford, who as Michael Wilbon pointed out last week, genuinely wants to play in Chicago, hasn't signed on the dotted line with the Bulls. He made almost $11 million last season, and now all of a sudden he's going to start making $5 million? The only way he was coming to the Bulls was if they worked out a sign and trade deal for him, which of course, would also give him more money. It appears that Crawford's chance to come back to Chicago has floated away for now.

That same logic likely will apply to Arron Afflalo and Nick Young. Would the Bulls like to have them? Sure. But their price tags were always going to be higher than the mid-level exception, plus the fact that there was never any guarantee they would end up with the Bulls even if they did sign an offer sheet. Both players are restricted free agents, meaning their current teams can match any offer the Bulls make.

Which brings us to Rip Hamilton, who has suddenly become the odds-on favorite to sign with the Bulls. Hamilton is a guy the Bulls have had interest in for a while and would have surely considered bringing in last season if he had been bought of his contract by the Detroit Pistons. He fills the two-guard need for the Bulls in a lot of areas. He can hit a mid-range jumper, play solid defense when needed and has experience in a championship atmosphere, having won an NBA championship with the Pistons.

So what happens next?

It's expected that it will take Hamilton around 48 hours to clear waivers. Another team could claim him, but that's doubtful given how much money is left on his contract. Once he clears waivers, the Bulls deal is expected to go down soon thereafter, contingent, of course, on whether the Bulls can come to a financial agreement with him. That doesn't figure to be much of an issue, because at age 33, the Bulls aren't expected to sign him to a multi-year deal, probably two at the max.

The question Bulls fans have is: At age 33 just how much gas does Hamilton have left in the tank? Can he revert back to his form in the mid 2000s when he was averaging almost 20 points a game? How much of an upgrade will he be over returning two guards Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer? Will Hamilton help the Bulls get past the Miami Heat if the two teams face off against one another in the Eastern Conference finals? All of these questions will be answered in time, the one answer the Bulls have at the moment is that compared to the other available options, the price was right for Mr. Hamilton.